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Coalition rift to play out at AU summit

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – The rift in the coalition government over the International Criminal Court prosecution of six Kenyan suspects is set to play out at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa this weekend.

Both the Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity have dispatched their strategists to Ethiopia ahead of the two-day Heads of State summit that gets underway on Sunday.

PNU is dispatching Prof Peter Kagwanja and Moses Kuria to advance the deferral push, while ODM has Prof Miguna Miguna and Mutakha Kangu to pitch for the ICC trials.

Both parties are expected to make presentations at the meeting and engage in lobbying on the sidelines of the talks.

The two coalition partners have been at loggerheads over the issue since ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo announced his intentions to prosecute the six individuals.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has in recent weeks led a shuttle diplomacy campaign across the continent to seek the support of Africa states to endorse the push by the deferral but Prime Minister Raila Odinga has opposed the move.

Those facing indictment by the ICC are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, MPs William Ruto and Henry Kosgey. Others are Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, former Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang.

The government wants to be allowed to try the suspects locally and is promising that the country is on the verge of major reforms in the justice system including the appointment of a new Chief Justice, Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General.

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While Mr Musyoka has said he is acting on instructions from President Mwai Kibaki in his shuttle diplomacy, Mr Odinga has denied that the move was ratified by the Cabinet.

In his latest mission, the VP has enlisted the support of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who said he supported Kenya\’s intention to request the African Union – and subsequently the UN Security Council – to call for a deferral of the Hague trials against the six suspects.

The Vice President will proceed to Nigeria to lobby the UN Security Council member to support Kenya\’s position ahead of the AU Heads of States summit where Kenya\’s position will be presented by President Mwai Kibaki this weekend.

The VP has been to Malawi, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda to lobby support for the Motion that is to be tabled before the summit.

Cabinet Ministers Chirau Ali Mwakwere and Njeru Githae have also been on similar missions in other countries in the region.

"If you take the view that the President is the Head of State and Head of Government then when he chooses to dispatch his Vice President and other Ministers, the President\’s intentions are normally not questioned," Mr Musyoka asserted in defence of his lobbying.

President Kibaki is due to leave Kenya on Saturday for Ethiopia.

This is not the first time the coalition partners are clashing over the same matter. Last year, the delegates of the two parties clashed at an ICC review meeting in Uganda over the support of ICC.

Mr Odinga has already left Nairobi for Addis Ababa where he will present a report on his mediation efforts in the Ivory Coast crisis to a ministerial meeting, ahead of the main summit.  He is expected back home on Saturday.

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